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Protecting jobs in outsourcing deal
MEMBERS OF the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) at the giant National Savings complexes in Glasgow, Blackpool and Durham have reluctantly voted to accept the proposed transfer of 250 jobs to India.
Siemens Business Services who operate the government's National Savings Agency following privatisation in 1999 are intending to export 250 jobs to India over the next nine months.
The move is driven by potential savings to the company in excess of £50 million over the next ten years. The union's decision follows a major campaign of opposition which included a meeting with Treasury minister Stephen Timms, who has now given the go-ahead to Siemens.
The union only found out about the company's intention through an anonymous tip-off in July, even though plans were laid up to a year earlier.
Members accepted a recommendation from their group executive committee that they had taken their campaign within Siemens as far as they could and that the improved assurances which they had negotiated would protect jobs, pay, terms and conditions and pension benefits on this occasion.
Following the campaign, assurances have been received that there will be no redundancies, that no job can transfer offshore without a replacement of at least the same quality being agreed with PCS, that extra money will be paid by Siemens to ensure pensions values are protected and that any future bids by Siemens for new or re-tendered contracts will be made on the basis of the current terms and conditions of the workforce.
The union has also negotiated what is considered to be one of the best consultation agreements on offshoring achieved by a UK union, including full and early consultation with PCS.
Furthermore PCS has forced the government to agree that before any further proposals are made to offshore National Savings work, the Treasury minister will meet the union at the outset.
There will also be a degree of protection for Indian workers with agreement that Siemens will recognise local trade unions for collective bargaining and also pay above local rates and ensure superior terms and conditions.
It has also been agreed that Siemens will arrange and pay for site visits in India to allow PCS reps to monitor the conditions of Indian workers.
At previous meetings PCS members had indicated that they did not believe they could mount the kind of industrial action needed to stop the company, given that the move would be worth £50 million to Siemens.
They concluded that offshoring was an issue which needs a wider campaign if it is to be beaten. But members have also made it clear that their campaign against offshoring will continue.
They have called on the government to halt the offshoring of civil service work and have asked the TUC to mount a major campaign against the general threat UK workers face from offshoring.
The PCS National Executive Committee has supported these demands and aims to take the campaign forward on a national level both with government and the TUC.
Danny Williamson PCS Group President and a member of the Socialist Party said:
"Our members are deeply disappointed and angry that a Labour minister has put his weight behind the exploitation of workers abroad and has therefore endorsed the practice of multinational companies being allowed to move jobs around the world for the sake of profit. They feel betrayed by the government and their employer, Siemens. Our members deserve better.
"While they recognise that their campaign has ensured they are protected from the threats offshoring brings on this occasion, they still fear the long-term threats to themselves and other workers.
"They have sent a clear message to the company that while they are not in a position to stop this offshoring proposal, they will resist tooth and nail any future attempts to cut costs at the expense of their job security, pay, terms and conditions or pension benefits. And they have not given the company or the government the green light to send any more jobs abroad or anywhere else in the UK"
PCS National Officer Kim Hendry added:
"New Labour stands condemned of putting the profits of a German multinational ahead of the interests of a workforce who have given an average of 23 years loyal service to the state and the public. Their shameful actions will only embolden other employers who want to exploit workers abroad while throwing UK workers on the dole.
"The whole trade union movement faces a major crisis in offshoring and so PCS is calling on the TUC to mount a major campaign to protect the jobs and services provided by union members in the UK."
With globalisation and the expansion of the EU to include the former Eastern bloc countries the threat of jobs being transferred to cheaper labour markets will increase as bosses seek to maximise their profits at the expense of workers around the globe.
It is only the international labour movement which can resist this exploitation of workers across the world. But only if it understands the need to organise and build links internationally.
Offshoring is an inevitable consequence of global capitalism. It demonstrates clearly the need for a genuine socialist alternative to the rotten system which chucks workers on the dole in one country while brutally exploiting others on the other side of the world.
In The Socialist 20 November 2004:
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